Photo provided by Chuck Inglish
Cooking and music production go hand-in-hand. One can easily use food descriptors to describe sounds, and vice versa. To make a beat is to cook it up. A producer is a chef. The main sounds are the ingredients. The minor flourishes, like a shaker, as Zaytoven would say, are icing on the cake. “It's chemistry,” Chuck Inglish said. “You're using heat, certain ingredients, certain compounds, to create one dish. And the dish is definitely having a concert on the plate.”
Listening to Inglish, the prolific rapper-producer and one-half of The Cool KIds, talk about his admiration for music and the culinary arts is motivational. You might not get the inspiration to pick up an MPC and make a beat, but you’ll at least take more care the next time you assemble a sandwich. In what could easily be a Chuck Inglish bar; he told VICE, “I spent half of the pandemic in the grocery store.” The routine and the reason were equally simple. “Get dressed, go to the grocery store. What the fuck else I gotta do?” Many people have taken to pandemic-onset cooking; in part due to boredom, in equal measure as a way to take a screen break. But Inglish’s increased kitchen activity isn’t because of a lack of work.The rap duo announced a triple album to drop later this year, Inglish is working on some short films, producing for other artists, and writing up a potential food show as well. Still, he’s made the time to try his hand at carbonara, braised meats, short rib bolognese, jerk oxtails, goat cheese potato puree, and shrimp and grits he described as “flawless.” He learned how to perfectly sear salmon skin; and tried recipes swiped from TikTok, such as a seafood pan roast.
The Cool Kids, and Inglish in particular, have a documented love for all things culinary. Their debut EP, after all, was titled The Bake Sale. They’ve dedicated bars to faraway foods like Southwestern Italian cuisine, barbecued barracudas in Bermuda, to local fares like a cracked pepper turkey deli sandwich. On the most recent Cool Kids release, “Dapper Dan Leather,” Inglish is at the stove, cooking ratatouille.
“I've been able to choose a beautiful cast of friends, and my family is so tight knit,” he said. “When I think about why, it's because we eat together. Every single celebration, if it's the Super Bowl, it's about food. If it's the Grammys, it's about food. The Verzuz with the Isley Brothers on Easter? All about food.” For the Easter spread to accompany the Isleys, Inglish made oxtails—usually stewed, braised, or pressure-cooked—by smoking them for two hours after their time in the oven. The result, served with yellow rice, was “beautiful,” he said. “That shit was different.” The feedback loop for his cooking is much more direct than his music. “You get to watch people enjoy it real time,” he said. “As an artist, I've always needed that,” Inglish said. Aside from being out on tour, or hearing a DJ play his music—neither happening much in the last year—he doesn’t know how his work is sitting with people in real life. He’s already crouched on a domain name for his catering business—to be announced later—so he can revisit the project when he has time. He expressed an importance to write goals down and take steps to commit to them, so he’s not just talking about these ventures without any skin in the game. Friends have asked Inglish if he’d open up a restaurant. One idea he’s thought about is barbecue tapas with natural wine pairings.
It’s instructive to hear the prolific rapper-producer talk about the virtues of cooking, and how it’s affected his artistry. He’s used the overwhelming wealth of information online for aspiring home cooks to his advantage. He went on a three-day run of paella cooking sessions, referencing YouTube for Spanish home-cooked techniques as well as a Michelin-starred chef’s approach to the rice dish. “A lot of the things that I'm into are self-taught, mainly because I want to learn,” Inglish said. In his life, he’s been “surrounded by greats in the kitchen,” from his own household, to hometown friends and college roommates who became chefs. The first dish Inglish ever plated, by his estimation, came in the summer going into seventh grade. Up to that point, he’d made simple meals, like eggs. But he cooked a grilled chicken breast that he still remembers.“I had to be no more than 11. It was perfectly colored, perfectly charred on both sides, I cut it and sliced it correctly. Put it next to a salad and I kind of knew then,” he said, regarding his affinity for cooking. Anyone who’s cooked for a group larger than one knows the feeling that accompanies the process; a hope that everyone enjoys the fruits of their labor. “I'm not trying to impress everybody, because that'll kill you. But I do want everybody to enjoy it,” he said.
The art of food is also one Inglish sees as more broadly applicable than his day job. “While I speak a great musical language, the universal language is food. Food and laughter. The older I get, the more that is the one thing that matters to me most,” he said. The constant hustle of everyday life can make shortcuts look very appealing. Inglish, as both a producer and cook, tries to avoid this route, in today’s era, which involves “a lot of pointing and clicking.” “A lot of instant meals, a lot of meal prep. That's how I feel like music is. No disrespect, but there's a lot of producers where they're not even touching the keys. They got a drum loop, somebody sent them a couple of top line melodies, they put that together with a couple sound effects, and they just go on about their day,” he said. He’s fallen victim to this mentality in the past, he said, where he was not respecting the process of creation. Which he compared to culinary prep work. “Both processes are not tight,” he Said. “Prep work is trash. It becomes meditative, though.” In either discipline, ingredients are important. That’s why they tell you where your food came from at high-end restaurants, Inglish explained. But that’s not what he’s hearing. “It's a lot of Cheesecake Factory shit going on, where the food is pre-made off the truck. All they gotta do is heat it up.”His work in the kitchen reminds Inglish to take his time in the studio. “Cooking has shown me there is no such thing as a process other than the slow one. You can't skip steps if you want it to taste good.”